skip to main content


Search for: All records

Creators/Authors contains: "Vavrus, Stephen J."

Note: When clicking on a Digital Object Identifier (DOI) number, you will be taken to an external site maintained by the publisher. Some full text articles may not yet be available without a charge during the embargo (administrative interval).
What is a DOI Number?

Some links on this page may take you to non-federal websites. Their policies may differ from this site.

  1. Extratropical cyclones develop in regions of enhanced baroclinicity and progress along climatological storm tracks. Numerous studies have noted an influence of terrestrial snow cover on atmospheric baroclinicity. However, these studies have less typically examined the role that continental snow cover extent and changes anticipated with anthropogenic climate change have on cyclones’ intensities, trajectories, and precipitation characteristics. Here, we examined how projected future poleward shifts in North American snow extent influence extratropical cyclones. We imposed 10th, 50th, and 90th percentile values of snow retreat between the late 20th and 21st centuries as projected by 14 Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase Five (CMIP5) models to alter snow extent underlying 15 historical cold-season cyclones that tracked over the North American Great Plains and were faithfully reproduced in control model cases, providing a comprehensive set of model runs to evaluate hypotheses. Simulations by the Advanced Research version of the Weather Research and Forecast Model (WRF-ARW) were initialized at four days prior to cyclogenesis. Cyclone trajectories moved on average poleward (μ = 27 +/− σ = 17 km) in response to reduced snow extent while the maximum sea-level pressure deepened (μ = −0.48 +/− σ = 0.8 hPa) with greater snow removed. A significant linear correlation was observed between the area of snow removed and mean trajectory deviation (r2 = 0.23), especially in mid-winter (r2 = 0.59), as well as a similar relationship for maximum change in sea-level pressure (r2 = 0.17). Across all simulations, 82% of the perturbed simulation cyclones decreased in average central sea-level pressure (SLP) compared to the corresponding control simulation. Near-surface wind speed increased, as did precipitation, in 86% of cases with a preferred phase change from the solid to liquid state due to warming, although the trends did not correlate with the snow retreat magnitude. Our results, consistent with prior studies noting some role for the enhanced baroclinity of the snow line in modulating storm track and intensity, provide a benchmark to evaluate future snow cover retreat impacts on mid-latitude weather systems. 
    more » « less
  2. Recent climate change in the Arctic has been rapid and dramatic, leading to numerous physical and societal consequences. Many studies have investigated these ongoing and projected future changes across a range of climatic variables, but surprisingly little attention has been paid to wind speed, despite its known importance for sea ice motion, ocean wave heights, and coastal erosion. Here we analyzed future trends in Arctic surface wind speed and its relationship with sea ice cover among CMIP5 global climate models. There is a strong anticorrelation between climatological sea ice concentration and wind speed in the early 21st-century reference climate, and the vast majority of models simulate widespread future strengthening of surface winds over the Arctic Ocean (annual multi-model mean trend of up to 0.8 m s−1 or 13%). Nearly all models produce an inverse relationship between projected changes in sea ice cover and wind speed, such that grid cells with virtually total ice loss almost always experience stronger winds. Consistent with the largest regional ice losses during autumn and winter, the greatest increases in future wind speeds are expected during these two seasons, with localized strengthening up to 23%. As in other studies, stronger surface winds cannot be attributed to tighter pressure gradients but rather to some combination of weakened atmospheric stability and reduced surface roughness as the surface warms and melts. The intermodel spread of wind speed changes, as expressed by the two most contrasting model results, appears to stem from differences in the treatment of surface roughness. 
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    The Arctic is undergoing a pronounced and rapid transformation in response to changing greenhouse gasses, including reduction in sea ice extent and thickness. There are also projected increases in near‐surface Arctic wind. This study addresses how the winds trends may be driven by changing surface roughness and/or stability in different Arctic regions and seasons, something that has not yet been thoroughly investigated. We analyze 50 experiments from the Community Earth System Model Version 2 (CESM2) Large Ensemble and five experiments using CESM2 with an artificially decreased sea ice roughness to match that of the open ocean. We find that with a smoother surface there are higher mean wind speeds and slower mean ice speeds in the autumn, winter, and spring. The artificially reduced surface roughness also strongly impacts the wind speed trends in autumn and winter, and we find that atmospheric stability changes are also important contributors to driving wind trends in both experiments. In contrast to the clear impacts on winds, the sea ice mean state and trends are statistically indistinguishable, suggesting that near‐surface winds are not major drivers of Arctic sea ice loss. Two major results of this work are: (a) the near‐surface wind trends are driven by changes in both surface roughness and near‐surface atmospheric stability that are themselves changing from sea ice loss, and (b) the sea ice mean state and trends are driven by the overall warming trend due to increasing greenhouse gas emissions and not significantly impacted by coupled feedbacks with the surface winds.

     
    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    The Marine Isotope Stage 19c (MIS19c) interglaciation is regarded as the best orbital analog to the Holocene. The close of MIS19c (~777,000 years ago) thus serves as a proxy for a contemporary climate system unaffected by humans. Our global climate model simulation driven by orbital parameters and observed greenhouse gas concentrations at the end of MIS19c is 1.3 K colder than the reference pre-industrial climate of the late Holocene (year 1850). Much stronger cooling occurs in the Arctic, where sea ice and year-round snow cover expand considerably. Inferred regions of glaciation develop across northeastern Siberia, northwestern North America, and the Canadian Archipelago. These locations are consistent with evidence from past glacial inceptions and are favored by atmospheric circulation changes that reduce ablation of snow cover and increase accumulation of snowfall. Particularly large buildups of snow depth coincide with presumed glacial nucleation sites, including Baffin Island and the northeast Canadian Archipelago. These findings suggest that present-day climate would be susceptible to glacial inception if greenhouse gas concentrations were as low as they were at the end of MIS 19c.

     
    more » « less